During one voyage to Asia, the plenipotentiary ambassador of the Portuguese trading ships, Capitão-mór recorded by obtained a “sick amount of profit”. That amount, from about 10 thousand cruzado to 20 thousand cruzado. One silver cruzado was 10 monme (37.5 grams) of Japanese silver. So 20 thousand cruzado is 7.5 tons of silver.
Since it’s not that old of a record of the cost of living, in the Tenshou Period (1573-1592) prices, when you converst into rice, it was worth about 10 thousand koku of rice. That is worth 50 million sen. In the feeling of modern day cost of living prices, wouldn’t that be about 5 billion yen!
Capitão-mór had to give an a portion of his enoumous profits to his king. On top of this, the only reason he devoted a year to the trip one way and risked his life sailing all the way to Asia, was because he anticipated this vast profit.
The Europeans who witnessed the prosperity of the Portuguese king, out of all the Asian countries, became very interested in Japan the island of silver.
The photo of the map at the head of this article is a detail of Chugoku from the map of Japan made by the Portugese in 1568. In the area thought to be Iwami, the words Minas Da Parata can be seen. That means Silver Mine Mountain.
Francisco de Xaxier, in an epistle written to Japan, called Japan the island of silver (isurasu puretareasu). Especially because of that, crossing all the way over the ocean, trespassing through danger, the Portuguese ships tried to come.
The Portugese, buying spices in India, first went to the Ming. Because of the Ming had an ocean ban policy, they first did trade through smuggling, but then could do trade with open arms. Selling Spices with the Ming, the Portugese ships which had purchased silk went to Kyushu to sell the silk, and received silver.
Circling between these three points only, the Portughuese ships were able to raised a huge profit. Not only the Portuguese ships, but also tons of Ming smuggling vessels came too. The Ryukyuan ships which enthusiastical came and returned endevored to interruptt the trade. Besides Ming trading vessals having a proper license, many smuggling boats came. The mediaeval period was an age of moving people and things with a far more dynamic structure than we imagine.
However, only the wealthy merchants of Sakai and Hakata, with the daimoy of western Japan such as Ootomo Sourin encouraging the trade, received this blessing. The class of the common people were completely left out.
Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi by working together with the wealthy merchants were able to make a bubble economy with silver . As a spring of these assets, guns and other arms were prepared and people of the earth rose up. We cannot understand the scenery in which tea utensils became expensive without underestanding the bubble economy of the warring states period.